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Harmless 'fun' or sexual harassment? Law to decide at ITT Tech

Many companies have meetings and conferences meant to encourage camaraderie and motivate their employees. Training sessions, inter-departmental competitions, and company rituals can shape the attitudes and performance of employees. However, when these same motivational tools are used to degrade, pressure or embarrass specific employees, it becomes discrimination and sexual harassment. One California company is about to find out where the court feels this line between harmless "fun" and harassment is drawn.

Recently, 14 employees of ITT Technical College have filed complaints alleging a hostile work environment, racism, and sexual harassment. Employees alleged they were required by their department manager to participate in motivational "rituals" that were bizarre and that many felt had sexual overtones. They were also subjected to comments and actions that were considered inappropriate and racially and gender biased.

One of the employees involved in the allegations states that she contacted ITT's Ethics Hotline several times, but no action was taken. Other employees state they left the company because of the hostile work environment. Although the manager named in the lawsuits was released shortly after they were filed, ITT will still be held accountable if it is proven that they knew of the allegations and took no action to correct the problem.

Employees are entitled by law to work in an environment that is free of harassment and discrimination. It is an employer's responsibility to investigate and remedy any and all allegations that are made to ensure the safety and comfort of their employees. When employers fail to do this, it is vital that the employee know what their rights are in the workplace and how to access help to resolve the problem. Legal remedies are available to help California employees who are victims of sexual harassment or other forms of work place abuse.

Source: 10news.com, "Sex harassment claim features video of Twinkie at ITT Tech," Michael Chen, May 23, 2013